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EU envoy to Turkey resigns amid differences

14 June 2016 16:03

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The European Union’s top envoy to Turkey has resigned in a further sign of strained relations.

Ambassador Hansjoerg Haber resigned on Tuesday, with an official from the EU delegation in Ankara declining to explain the reason behind the resignation.

“We confirm that Haber has resigned. We are not in a position to comment on the reason at the moment,” the unnamed official said.

The resignation comes a month after Haber was summoned by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry over comments critical of Ankara’s handling of a refugee accord. An EU official said his departure was “not for personal reasons.”

Turkish officials criticized Haber’s use of an expression in German to describe how the EU-Ankara refugee deal had run into problems.

“We have a proverb — ‘Start off like a Turk and finish like a German.’ But the reverse has happened here. It started off like a German and is finishing like a Turk,” Haber had said on May 13, according to a report inHurriyet.


Refugees line up for food at the makeshift camp along the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, April 20, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Turkey has been having difficult relations with the EU in the course of negotiations on a deal that would stop the entry of irregular refugees into Europe.

While the main deal was reached in March, a sub-deal on visa-free travel to Europe for Turks has hit a snag over Turkey’s refusal to amend its anti-terrorism laws — a precondition set by the EU.

The visa waiver deal had been due on July 1, and there were fears that Turkey would increase refugee flows into Europe if it did not get its way.

On Sunday, leaked diplomatic documents suggested German Chancellor Angela Merkel may compromise in the face of Turkish intransigence in order for the deal on the refugees to stay intact.

In a leaked diplomatic telegram, Britain’s Ambassador to Germany Sir Sebastian Wood wrote that German officials were ready to strike a “compromise formulation” with Turkey, the British Daily Telegraphreported.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees are fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria, and attempt entry into Europe without applying for a visa. The influx has crippled the bloc, particularly the countries on its external borders.

Many blame support by some Western countries for militants operating in the Middle East as the main reason behind the departure of refugees from their home countries.

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